Alternate Names

  • chloasma
  • mask of pregnancy


Melasma is an area of tan or brown coloring that usually appears on the face.

What is going on in the body?

A woman with skin that pigments easily may develop melasma if she is pregnant or taking oral contraceptives and then goes out in the sun. The pigmented area often appears like a mask across the cheeks and forehead or on the upper lip.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Melasma often occurs in women who are pregnant. For this reason, this condition is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy. It may also appear in women who take oral contraceptives.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

In order to lower the risk of melasma, a woman can avoid oral contraceptives and stay out of the sun.


How is the condition diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can diagnose melasma based on its physical appearance.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

There are no long-term effects from melasma.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others, as melasma is not contagious.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment of melasma includes:
  • bleaching creams
  • skin care products and peels that contain glycolic acid
  • skin peels
  • sunscreens that extend into the UVA blocking range
  • laser treatments

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects depend on the specific products used to treat the melasma. Some people may have a mild allergic reaction to the cream or bleach.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

The darkened skin of melasma usually fades somewhat after a woman gives birth or stops using oral contraceptives.


How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.


The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

Hill, Marcia J. Skin Disorders: Mosby's Clinical Nursing Series, 1994

Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000

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